THIS will be a very weird Group 1 Victoria Cup for champion horseman Luke McCarthy.
Instead of being trackside to drive Australia’s best-performed pacer King Of Swing in Saturday night’s $300,000 Group 1 feature, McCarthy will be scrambling to find a TV screen at Menangle.
Despite exploring all options for a quarantine “workaround” to drive in the Cup, McCarthy is stranded in NSW and will be drive exciting juvenile Bar Room Banta in a semi-final of the Breeders Challenge series at 8.20pm – just 12 minutes before the Victoria Cup start time.
“I hope they don’t run late at Menangle,” McCarthy laughed. “I’ll be rushing off the track after that (Menangle) race so I can watch it (the Victoria Cup).”
McCarthy’s connection runs a lot deeper than just King Of Swing. He is co-trainer and often drives four of the other Cup runners: the emerging Balraj, defending champion Bling It On, Alta Orlando and Cash Or Flow.
McCarthy’s training “chief”, Craig Cross, has created a record with five of the 12 Victoria Cup runners, beating the four the late Bob Knight had with Sinbad Bad, Jane Ellen, Allan Grant and Almeta Boy way back in 1991.
“I definitely would be driving King Of Swing if I was down there because he’s the best of our horses, but he’s drawn wide and Balraj is now probably our best hope from the pole,” McCarthy said.
“If King Of Swing can get across them out there, he’ll be the one to beat, but Balraj has all the options from his perfect draw.”
King Of Swing is trying to become the first horse since the mighty Preux Chevalier 35 years ago to win the Victoria Cup, Miracle Mile and Hunter Cup in the same season.
McCarthy also has the strange insight of having driven the favourite and main danger, Victorian star Lochinvar Art. He’s been on him four times for two wins, a second and a third.
“He’s a lovely horse, always has been. He’s kept getting stronger and stronger and he’ll take some beating, especially if he finds the front,” he said.
Lochinvar Art wins the Chariots Of Fire. Photo: Laura LebedeffSource:Supplied
With McCarthy in Sydney, the team has snapped-up a strong array of drivers.
Champion big race driver Anthony Butt is aboard King Of Swing, John Caldow drives Balraj, Kate Gath takes the reins on Bling It On, while Josh Aiken is aboard Cash N Flow and Mick Stanley will partner Alta Orlando.
It’s been a weird week for Gath, who was preparing to drive long-time Victoria Cup favourite Ride High before he was injured and ruled-out of the race when beaten for just the second time in his 18 start career at Melton last Saturday night.
Lochinvar Art is TAB’s easing $2.70 favourite from the firming Balraj ($3.80 to $3.50), then King Of Swing ($7 to $6), Code Black ($7.50 to $9.50) and Cash N Flow ($8 to $11).
Here’s McCarthy’s snapshot of the stable’s record five runners:
BALRAJ (Driver: John Caldow): “He looks our best chance from the draw. He’s come-on super since beating King Of Swing last time. He’s got the speed to hold the lead early and then probably take the sit on Lochinvar Art or King Of Swing, whoever gets to him first. He’ll be dangerous along the sprint lane with his speed.”
BLING IT ON (Kate Gath): “He’ll run a terrific race. He’s back to where he was when he won last year. He loves the Melton track, the extra distance will suit and he’ll love a hard-run race. It’s just a bit tricky where he’ll land with the two drawn inside him having good early speed. He’s a winning chance if things play into his hands.”
ALTA ORLANDO (Michael Stanley): “We’ve done a lot of with him at home since his last run and he’s right where we want him. He was terrific in a private workout at Menangle last Saturday. He’ll have a look early and, if he can’t cross, probably still land close enough in the running line. His best is certainly good enough to win this.”
CASH N FLOW (Josh Aiken): “He’s flying. He’s naturally fast out, so he’ll have a crack at crossing them early. If he can’t, there’s a great chance he’ll land one-out, one-back and I think he’s actually better with a sit. Don’t sell him short.”
KING OF SWING (Anthony Butt): “He’s our best horse, but probably only our second best hope because of the (bad) draw. Despite all the uncertainly, he has been prepared for this race all along just in case he came down. He’s had a terrific build-up and couldn’t be better going into it. If he leads, he’ll be very, very hard to beat. If not, it’ll be a real test for him.”
Originally published asNo drive for champion reinsman in Vic Cup
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